Picture this: You’re at work, putting the finishing touches on a project that’s due tomorrow morning. You’re right on schedule, which is a good thing because this project is a big deal. Future business from this customer depends on a stellar job.
Now it’s time to hit the print button and you’ll be good to go. And then it happens — nothing! The printer worked fine minutes ago, why not now? And, of course, anyone in the office could help has already left for the day. They’ll be back tomorrow but not before you’re due at the customer’s office.
As you frantically search your brain for solutions and catastrophize about your future – STOP! Where is your breath? Chances are you’re either holding it or it’s high up in your chest. Maybe you’re close to hyperventilating. Bottom line, your breath is telling you – shouting at you – that you’re stressed.
Most of us get stressed out about something every day or every hour depending on the life we lead. And, the first step to reducing that stress is to become aware of your breathing pattern(s).
Where does your breath go when you get stressed? Personally, I tend to hold my breath. When I was in corporate America, my breath never, ever got below my upper chest because I was so constantly stressed that I never relaxed my belly. How about you?
The next time you get stressed take these steps:
- Recognize you’re feeling anxious and stressed
- Bring your attention to your breath
- Become aware of how you’re breathing. Are you holding? Is your breath short and uneven? Is it high up in your chest? Or something else?
- Bring your attention to your belly and relax it. That can be a challenge, especially if you’re extremely stressed. Over time, it will get easier. What I’ve found helps is to consciously relax your belly when you’re not stressed. Remember, practice when it’s not a crisis.
- Bring your attention to your exhale and start it from your low belly. As you exhale, feel your belly contract and move toward your spine.
- Take several breaths focusing awareness on your exhale.
- Lengthen your exhale gradually as you continue to exhale from your low belly.
How do you feel? More calm, I’m sure. Practice this Technique when you’re feeling stressed. Eventually, it will be second nature.
Joanne Thompson owns Yoga for the Self and teaches workshops in breath management. Join Joanne for for Manage Your Breath, Manage Your Life on September 11, 2013 from 6:00 – 9:00pm to learn more ways to use breath to de-stress your life. Or browse our listing of health classes to see future dates for this life changing workshop.